Storage shelves mounted to finished garage wall. Sturdy Utility Shelving:

Inexpensive Shop Storage 
Mounted To A Finished Wall.


Time Taken: About 3 Hours

Skill Level: 2-3 (Beginner to Moderate Experience)

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By , Editor



Much of the time my garage workshop is a disaster. I have so many tools, and I do so many different projects, that the shop often becomes gridlocked with STUFF.

Over the years I've developed a certain reaction to the chaos: Buy or build more storage units. My attitude lately has been to find ways to utilize every little square inch of space. No, make that cubic inch, because that is the essence of a good storage solution: Use the volume of the shop. Keep things off the floor. Keep things off the workbenches. Get vertical. Go up, not out.


There was a short "L"-shaped section of wall between the entry door and the nearest garage door.

About 5 years ago I slapped together some quick-and-cheap shelving made from triangular-shaped scraps of OSB I had salvaged from a waste pile at a construction site. But the shelves were too shallow (8 to 10 inches deep) so I decided to tear them out and build a deeper shelf unit similar to others I have built recently.

Note the big red air compressor in the photo. That one constraint kept me from just buying a heavy duty steel shelf unit. I needed a custom shelf unit that would let me store the compressor underneath. The machine is wired for 240 volts and I don't feel like relocating it and going through the trouble of extending the wiring. Moving the wiring isn't such a problem... finding a place to park the compressor is.


I fastened some 2x4's to the existing studs to provide some backing for the wall panels.


I installed some R-13 fiberglass insulation between the studs.

Garage walls after insulating with fiberglass.


Garage walls after installing OSB interior wall surface.

I installed OSB over the studs. Drywall is often used on garage walls, but I prefer OSB because it has enough strength to support tools and things.

Instead of using peg board, I install OSB to the walls and just drive nails or screws wherever I want to hang a tool.

I gave the OSB a coat of oil-based primer and latex interior semi-gloss paint. My goal isn't to make the wall look pretty but to make the shop a little brighter by giving the walls a reflective color. I used an off-white called Antique White from Sears. Pure white will let dirt and scuff marks show too easily.


I assembled a pair of side frames made from 2x4's. I used 3" deck screws to fasten the side rails to the vertical posts.

Screws hold better and are less likely to split the wood.


The completed side frames. They are just big "F" shapes.

In another article I described the construction of a shelf unit where the horizontal side rails were nailed to the exposed studs of the garage. But in this case I've covered the studs and I'll need a different approach.

Pair of 2x4 wood support brackets for  utility shelf.


Driving Screws:

When I wrote this article, I used a 12 volt drill-driver to drive in all the screws. In 2003, I bought a Makita 12 volt impact driver, and driving screws has never been the same. An impact driver uses a rotating hammer to pound the screw into the wood. It's noisier but much faster, and the tool is very light. Also, the batteries last longer than a drill-driver.

I've used that impact driver so much that I've worn out 2 pairs of rechargeable batteries. I don't think my impact driver is made anymore, but there are even better, more powerful products, which you can see on, such as the Makita BTD142HW 18-Volt Compact Lithium-Ion Cordless Impact Driver Kit

I strongly recommend looking into an impact driver. It's clearly the most useful tool I own.


I attached two 48" long front supports to one of the side assemblies. These boards will be horizontal when I'm done.


This picture is kinda hard to see, but it shows how I connected the two side assemblies with this pair of front support bars. I've basically just joined the backs of the "F"-shapes with two lateral pieces of 2x4.

I'll add the other front bars later.


Nearly-completed shelf frame set in position to mark locations on wall.

I placed the frame assembly against the wall...


... and marked the points were each side rail met the wall.

But first I made sure the frame was level from left to right.

I used 3" deck screws to attach several 2x4 cleats to the wall. It's important that the screws be long enough to penetrate the studs by at least one inch. If the screws are too long they could hit a wire, however.


Four cleats, one for each shelf.

2x4 cleats attached to wall to anchor shelf unit.


In a couple of places I drove in some Simpson Strong-Drive Screws. These awesome lag screws let me straighten out some warped 2x4's. They drill their own hole and drive right in... but the catch is you need a bad-@$$ heavy duty ½" drill to drive them.


A 50-pack of ¼" x 3" screws costs around $10 at Home Depot. These are expensive but well worth it.

I placed the frame assembly against the cleats on the wall.

I attached the frame assembly to the cleats with steel joist hangers.


I used 3" deck screws for the diagonal fasteners in the joist hanger. Note that this is not the way these hangers were intended to be used. 16d nails are supposed to be driven into the diagonal holes. But this is not a normal application of a joist hanger. Normal joists don't have much tendency to pull out from the wall, but this shelf unit will. Common nails have very low pull-out strength even though they may have very high shear strength.

Attaching 2x4 shelf frame to wall with metal joist anchors.

Ardox (spiral or twist) nails have much better resistance to pull-out, and ring-shank nails are even better.

I've heard of some people getting hassled by building inspectors because they used deck screws instead of nails in joist hangers like these. The rules are that the fastener must have a shear strength at least as high as an 8d nail. Many deck screws don't have this shear strength. I don't necessarily agree with this rule, but that's how it stands right now.


Completed frame of garage shelf storage device.

The completed frame.


Instead of using full 2x4's for a couple of front supports, I ripped a 2x4 in half. This will provide more head room for two of the shelves, although these thinner supports will reduce the load capacity of the shelves.


I cut the 3" x 5" notches at the corners of the OSB shelves.


But... I had a problem. I forgot about how little room there is to get the shelf into place with this design. I had to remove one of the front supports to give me enough room to maneuver the 24" x 48" piece of OSB into place.

The core of the problem is the way I placed the vertical supports. Sometimes I've put the vertical 2x4's outside of the loop, so to speak. But in this case they are inside the loop of horizontal supports, and that can make it difficult to get the shelf into place if the shelves are spaced close together.

I also had to slightly enlarge a couple of the notches to give me enough wiggle room.

Installing OSB shelving on frame of garage storage unit.

I secured the OSB shelves with deck screws.


The completed shelf unit.

Note how the air compressor fits easily under the lowest shelf. Of course, your bottom shelf can be much lower, or higher, whatever suits your needs.

It's important to realize that some machines such as air compressors may require a certain amount of space surrounding them, to allow for heat to dissipate. In this case there is about 6 inches above the compressor to the underside of the OSB shelf.

Completed storage shelving in corner of garage, with room for air compressor below.

Note how there is about 2 feet of space between the far side of the shelf and the short segment of wall next to the garage door. I purposely left this gap because it gives me a "slot" to store tall and skinny things like stepladders, table-tops, and long strips of plywood. The opposite corner of the garage has a similar slot where I store more ladders. 

I have several work surfaces that I use in conjunction with steel folding sawhorses. These are simply a 2'x8' piece of 7/16" OSB (or heavier) nailed or screwed to a rim of 2x4's on edge. When I'm not using these table-tops I can store them in these corners and they are out of the way.


More Reading:

Philosophy Of Storage And Stuff



Tools Used:

  • Cordless Drill/Driver
  • Basic Carpentry Tools
  • Quick-Grip Clamps
  • Circular Saw
  • Jig Saw
  • Power Miter Saw
  • Heavy-Duty 1/2" Drill


Materials Used:

  • Lumber, 2x4x8'
  • OSB
  • Deck Screws
  • Nails
  • 2x4 Joist Hangers
  • Simpson Strong-Drive Screws


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Written November 4, 2002